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Samsung enters the virtual reality race with the Gear VR headset

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Check out our hands-on with the Gear VR headset.

Samsung has officially joined Sony, Facebook, and other major tech companies in the virtual reality space. The Gear VR is a headset designed to fit around the newly announced 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4, which serves as a screen. That makes it completely wireless and powered by the phone, unlike the Oculus Rift or Sony's Project Morpheus. The Gear VR has been leaked for a while, with rumors of a Samsung partnership with Oculus going back to earlier this year. As we found out when the first units started shipping, Oculus' new DK2 development kit already uses a Note 3 screen, and it's fairly easy to turn any mobile device into a VR headset — Google demonstrated this at I/O with its foldable Cardboard design.

The new Note 4 has a 2560x1440 Quad HD screen compared to the 1080p Note 3, which means that the Gear VR has a significantly higher resolution than the latest Rift development kit. In addition to turning the Note image into an immersive 3D display, the Gear VR adds a side trackpad designed for navigating menus and playing games, a back button, and a volume key. The rear camera can also be turned on to give you an image of the real world around you. Oculus has contributed technical knowledge, likely including software tweaks to reduce latency and help choosing lenses. And Samsung has lined up a handful of games and other media experiences to go with it, including a tour of Tony Stark's lab from Avengers: Age of Ultron, a 360-degree Cirque du Soleil performance, HD music videos from Vevo, and the Pacific Rim Jaeger Pilot demo we saw at Comic Con.

A beta "Innovator Edition" of the Gear VR will be available at some point this fall, with no price specified.